Friday, January 14, 2011 “LapDawg X4 and Pug Review and Giveaway” plus 11 more “LapDawg X4 and Pug Review and Giveaway” plus 11 more

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LapDawg X4 and Pug Review and Giveaway

Posted: 14 Jan 2011 06:00 AM PST

If you’ve ever been bitten by the lazy bug and don’t feel like getting out of bed, you’ll be glad to know that the world can come to you instead. By “the world”, I mean your laptop — it still provides you access to the world, right?

Today, we’ll be taking a look at two of the most innovative laptop tables available on the market — the LapDawg Pug and the newer LapDawg X4. We’ll be giving both of them away, worth $148 in total but truthfully, it’s priceless.

We’ll start with the LapDawg Pug. It retails at $59 and is a foldaway laptop desk that’s suited to be used almost anywhere. At first glance, it looked slightly on the large side but after a while, I got used to the size. It’s actually pretty spacious with a large laptop area in the middle and 2 felt-lined work areas on each side that doubles as mouse pads; and a grooved cup holder.


The middle laptop work area is height-adjustable for better viewing angles, and has a built-in USB-powered fan to keep your laptop cool. At the bottom of that panel, you’ll find 2 foldaway clips that can be used to hold your laptop in place. In addition to that, the clips also serve as a great book holder if you choose to read in bed.


The LapDawg Pug has 3 height setting. The first is obviously 0″ when its legs are folded inwards. It can also extend to 13″ and 19″. At both heights, the LapDawg Pug remains steady, assisted by it’s solid construction and weight (4.5 bls). The LapDawg Pug stretches 24″ in width, so you’ll have a fair amount of space to work with and is made of hardened plastic.


Next up is the $89 LapDawg X4 and this is where it gets interesting. The X4 is dubbed the “Swiss Army Knife of Portable Trays” and it certainly lives up to its name. Made out of aluminium, this tray features a wide 17″ work area connected to 2 folding leg extensions with interconnecting joints. Let’s take a look.

Unlike most laptop trays where you’ll only get 1 upright surface to work with, the LapDawg X4 allows you to utilise both its upper and lower surfaces. On one side, you’ll find a rubberised wrist stopper for typing, etc. On the other side, there’s a curled bottom edge, which is perfect for holding books and magazines.


The legs are what makes the X4 so unique. It has 3 auto-locking, adjustable joints that rotate around 360 degrees, so you can customise it to be whatever you’d like. It’s up to your imagination, really. But if you need some inspiration, you might want to check out LapDawg’s gallery with a couple of usage examples and images.


The X4 is able to hold 25 lbs of weight, so it’ll have no problem supporting your laptop and a couple of books. Fully extended to its maximum height of 20″, the X4 can also be used as a standing laptop desk. Impressive.


Overall, the LapDawg X4 is great and so is the Pug. Even though they’re both laptop tables, they are actually really distinct products catered for different needs. Both feature LapDawg’s lifetime guarantee against defects. You may purchase these laptop tables from their online store.

We’re giving these review units away. So here’s how you can get one for yourself.

How do I win one?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.

Join our Facebook page by clicking the Like button or you can follow us on Twitter, if you prefer. If you’re already following us, you may skip this step.

If you can’t see the fanbox, click on this link.

Here’s our giveaway form. Please fill it in accurately. Be sure to enter your real name and email address so that we can get in touch if you are chosen as a winner. Click here if you can’t view the form.

You’re almost done. Now, all that’s left to do is to share the post. There are 2 options to choose from or you can do both!

Like it on Facebook

Or share it on Twitter

And that’s it! You’re done!
Giveaway eligibility
You must be a fan of our Facebook page to enter;
Individuals who are over the age of 18. If you are under 18, get your parents to participate on your behalf;
Individuals who reside in a country embargoed by the United States; Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India are not permitted to enter.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, Jan 21st at 2100hrs PST. The winners will be selected at random and announced via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

MakeUseOf would like to thank LapDawg for their generosity while participating in this giveaway. Interesting in sponsoring? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via email.

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Cool Websites and Tools [January 13th]

Posted: 13 Jan 2011 07:31 PM PST

Check out some of the latest MakeUseOf discoveries. All listed websites are FREE or come with a decent free account option. You can make use of them without spending a dime. If you want to have similar cool websites round-ups delivered to your email daily email subscribe here.

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Aviary’s HTML5 Photo Editor – If you are running a website that lets visitors work with images, it only makes sense that you provide your visitors with image editing tools right there on your site – they will surely appreciate it. Instead of extensively coding many lines for an image editor, you can easily embed one on your site using Aviary's HTML5 Photo Editor. Read more: Aviary's HTML5 Photo Editor: The HTML5 Based Image Editor


Y-Tunes – We all know YouTube is the best video sharing service today, but a lot of people also use it to listen to converted MP3 files and turn it into a music player. One great tool that puts YouTube in a playlist interface is iTunes like music player Y-Tunes. This free media online player resembles the look and feel of desktop music players like iTunes or WMP, with all content coming from YouTube. Read more: Y-Tunes: iTunes Like Music Player for YouTube



SmartVideo For YouTube – YouTube has a large collection of enjoyable videos. But people with slower internet connections often face problems streaming those videos because of inconsistent buffering. Offering a solution to this problem is a tool called “SmartVideo for YouTube”, a free web tool that comes as a browser extension for Google Chrome. The extension's main function is to let you control when a YouTube video starts playing. Read more: SmartVideo For YouTube: Avoid Video Buffering on YouTube



Snapbird – While Twitter is a great online social network, there is a lot of room for improvement in its search interface. If you want to find an old Tweet or entry, then you have to go through many search pages before you find what you are looking for. Twitter search is made much more convenient by SnapBird, an absolutely free Twitter client that lets you easily search the Twitter stream. Read more: Snapbird: Search Twitter Streams In A Variety Of Useful Ways



Google Calendar Backup Utility – Either through your browser or through various third party applications, you schedule and manage events in your Google Calendar. If you frequently use Google Calendar and mistakenly delete an event or an entire calendar, it can ruin your schedule. To save yourself from such a situation use Google Calendar Backup Utility to regularly backup your Google Calendars. Once you have the application installed you can add information for all your Google Calendars by giving the app the calendars' ICAL private address, by accessing the settings of your Google Calendar. Read more: Google Calendar Backup Utility: Easily Backup Google Calendar Data


These are just half of the websites that we discovered in the last couple of days. If you want us to send you daily round-ups of all cool websites we come across, leave your email here. Or follow us via RSS feed.

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Find & Launch Linux Applications In A Flash With GNOME Do

Posted: 13 Jan 2011 05:31 PM PST

launch linux applicationDo you find navigating menus boring and cumbersome? Too many programs to trawl through? Clearly you need a fancy launcher to do the hunting for you, and that’s where GNOME Do comes in.

Not only can GNOME Do launch applications, but also perform specific tasks based on the application you have chosen. Throw in a sexy-looking interface and you’ve got yourself an attractive, time-saving power tool.

Forget your mouse or touchpad, it’s time to do things keyboard-style.

Download & Install

GNOME Do is available for most major Linux distributions on the download page with instructions for installing from repositories and manual download. You can also compile it from source if your particular distro isn’t listed.

If you’re using Ubuntu you can choose to download GNOME Do with a simple command. The latest version is available from the repositories, so open up Terminal (in Applications, Accessories) and type:

sudo apt-get install gnome-do

Hit Y when asked to do so and the packages will download, unpack and install. Once you’re done you’ll find GNOME Do in the Applications then Accessories menu – launch and enjoy!

Note: GNOME Do is also available in the main Ubuntu repositories, though this version may not be as up to date as the official source. As I’m not running Fedora or Debian I cannot say whether the respective packages and repositories are up to date. It’s also worth pointing out the project hasn’t been updated in a while, but it ran fine on Ubuntu 10.10.

GNOME Doing Things

When you first launch GNOME Do you’ll notice it all looks a bit plain. The launcher presents you with two tabs – the application on the left and the command or related action in the right hand pane.

launch linux application

You can test it by starting to type – you’ll notice GNOME Do suggesting programs that match your keystrokes. You can use the Tab key to switch between the panels, so as an example beginning to type "Terminal" will reveal the Launch in Terminal application link, then hitting tab and entering a command followed by Enter will run that command in a new terminal window.

launch linux program

Once you’ve added oft-used services and applications to the launcher, many frequent tasks are a keyboard shortcut away!

The default keyboard shortcut for bringing up the GNOME Do launcher is Super key (or Windows key) + Space Bar. If you’ve not got a Super/Windows key then you’ll need to change the shortcut. Open GNOME Do and type "preferences" followed by Enter, or in the main launcher window click the small arrow in the top right and choose Preferences.

There are a number of tabs to choose from when customizing your launcher. The first General panel allows you to specify whether you’d like to launch the app at system start, in silent mode and whether you want a notification icon in your system tray.

The Keyboard tab displays a list of common shortcuts that you can edit to suit your own preferences (though if you’ve got the right layout, the default shortcuts work a treat). Appearance is a tab with a few themes to choose from, as well as colour preferences and eye candy.

You can also add plugins from the Preferences window, and plugins are what makes GNOME Do so special.

Plugins Do More

We’re already familiar with GNOME Do here at MakeUseOf, and in the past we’ve produced a list of fantastic plugins for this snappy little launcher.

launch linux program

Adding plugins is an incredibly simple task (and one the developers should be praised for). Your Preferences window contains another tab called Plugins, and from there you can greatly expand GNOME Do’s abilities.

There are several lists of available plugins, simply click the drop-down box next to Show and choose between official, community, docklets and all available extensions. To enable a plugin simply check the box next to it.

launch linux program

Certain plugins (those that use web services, mainly) will require configuration (by clicking Configure in the Plugins tab) to work, so make sure you’ve done this.

When you’ve grabbed all your desired plugins you can test them out. Happy launching!

launch linux application


GNOME Do greatly expands the power of a simple desktop with a fast, intuitive way of accessing your frequent applications and completing menial tasks.

Despite the good-looking icon filled GUIs found in today’s modern Linux distributions GNOME Do demonstrates that command-based computing can be a faster way of getting things done. You should also check out Launchy if you like this kind of thing.

Do you have any favourite launchers for your OS? Any priceless GNOME Do plugins? Let us know in the comments section below.

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3 Reasons Why Your Windows Computer Clock Loses Its Time

Posted: 13 Jan 2011 03:31 PM PST

computer clock loses timeThere are many things that most people take for granted. One of them is that clocks always show the current time. When you tend to rely on your computer’s time and your computer clock loses time, this can be fatal.

There are several situations where the Windows clock starts showing the wrong time. If you’re obsessed with having the exact time on your computer no matter what, you may want to set up synchronization with a remote server. Before you do that however, please note that an inaccurate Windows clock should not be taken lightly.

If the computer clock loses time although you keep fixing it, there may be a serious cause. This article shows you what the underlying causes may be and how you can fix them.

1. CMOS Battery

This is the most likely scenario, especially if your computer is not brand new.

The CMOS battery sits on your computer’s motherboard and provides power to the Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) chip. The CMOS chip stores information about the system configuration, including the date and time. The CMOS battery makes sure the chip can store this data even while the computer is turned off and not hooked up to power. If the battery goes bad, the chip starts losing information and one of the symptoms is that your computer no longer maintains its time and date.

computer clock loses time

Replacing the CMOS battery is pretty easy. You just have to turn off your computer, ground yourself, open the case, find out which type of battery (step 3 in the linked guide) sits on your motherboard, go buy it, start over, and exchange the battery. Follow the links to the keywords for articles on the respective steps.

2. Time Zone

This is an easy to fix cause for when your computer clock loses time.

Your computer may simply be set to the wrong time zone and every time you fix the time, it resets itself to that time zone when you reboot. If the minutes are correct and only the hour is bad, that’s probably the issue you’re dealing with.

In Windows 7 you can easily fix the time zone. Right-click the system clock in your taskbar and select > Adjust date/time. Under the headline > Time Zone check whether the information is correct. If not, click the > Change time zone… button and set your time zone. Don’t forget to confirm your changes and you’re all set.

computer clock not keeping time

3. Malware

This is the least pleasant and most difficult to manage scenario.

Your computer may have been hijacked by a virus that messes with your computer time. To fix it, you need to gather a few tools. First, make sure your anti-virus program is up to date with the latest virus definitions. Then get a good malware scanner, for example Malwarebytes or Spybot Search & Destroy. For more tools and links to the respective download pages, check out our The Best Of: Windows Software page.

Once you have all these tools downloaded, updated and installed, start in Safe Mode and run them. It’s important to start in safe mode because the malware won’t launch and be active when you choose this boot mode. This means that it is less likely to escape detection and removal.

computer clock loses time


It’s important to pay attention to the most basic features of your computer. Simple things going wrong can be a sign of serious trouble ahead. For example if your CMOS battery dies, your computer will act like it has Alzheimers and you have to introduce it to its hardware components (via the BIOS) every time it boots. That’s just as annoying as a virus that plays tricks on you or a bad time zone setting that messes up everything from the clock to your email client’s time stamps. So be wise and act immediately.

Be sure to also check out Jeffry’s article on synchronizing your PC clock with an atomic clock.

Do you sync the time on your computer and what made you set that up?

Image credits: Gina Sanders, Peter J. Kovacs,

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uWall – Your Own Personal YouTube-Based Music Channel

Posted: 13 Jan 2011 01:31 PM PST

music on youtubeIt’s amazing how there’s always another new and interesting way to watch YouTube. uWall‘s creator @sebasvaggi has come up with another way to play with it — and it’s a great one at that!

If you’re a music lover, you will love uWall. It’s basically an MTV alternative using YouTube clips. Don’t believe me? Give it a try! At first glance, it looks like a neat way to view popular YouTube music clips. And it is, really. Using uWall means that your search for music on YouTube actually yields music, not interviews. Plus, it’s the good stuff. The best clips are all brought straight to you.

Browse uWall

The first page you see is full of the most popular artists they could find on YouTube.

music on youtube

To use it, all you need to do is click on an artist you want to hear. Then uWall will create a playlist of all the best YouTube clips of their film clips and concerts and play them for you one by one without any pauses — this could go on for a really long time. Anytime you want to change artists, just close it and click on another artist. Browsing down the list is an infinite scroll. Just keep browsing away if you like.

find youtube music

The playlist uWall puts up has the most popular clips up first. This makes it easy to listen to a song you know from an artist you love, then explore through their other tunes while you get on with your work or play elsewhere. But if you prefer to change the order, look at the top of the player and you’ll see a few filters: Relevance; Upload Date; View Count; Rating; Music; HD. Skip ahead just by clicking on the clip you’d prefer to be watching.

In around the same spot is the ability to share the playlist with your friends via Facebook or Twitter.

find youtube music

It’s also possible to set this to full-screen and leave it running as your personalised MTV featuring your favourite artist only.

If you want to listen to popular songs on YouTube, look at the search field. There’s an option to view artists or songs. If you click songs you will find a sea of Katy Perry, Glee and Justin Bieber. Well okay, and a few other stray songs. If you click on any of these you will hear every single version of the song on YouTube — the song section is perfect for teenagers.

find youtube music

Browse uWall By Genre

But we’re just getting you started. You see, there’s a number of other tricks up uWall’s sleeve. For instance, take a look across the top and you will see some suggested genres you can browse to. These pages are just as full as the first one, so there’s plenty of inspiration.

youtube music

Down in the bottom right-hand side, there’s a “Discover uWall” section, allowing you to see what other people are listening to. These are the lists which people have sent to Twitter publicly. So your listening won’t show up there unless you think it’s good enough to tweet.

youtube music

Search uWall

All this browsing is really just for people who don’t know what they want to listen to. If you’re keen to listen to something specific there’s a search field ready and waiting on all pages. This makes it really easy to find the slightly less popular artists. And it just jumps straight up with a playlist for you. The search will find anything in the title or description, so you can get a little creative with it.

youtube music

Problems & Improvements

In my browsing, I did come across one clip which had had embedding disabled, which brought the playlist to a halt. But this was only once, and I was listening for quite a while. However, uWall could probably improve filtering of these clips a little all the same.

Another thought which springs to mind is that some clips are likely to be unavailable in some countries. This could be a pain for some listeners, so I hope that uWall is filtering out those clips or has plans to let users choose a location filter themselves.

I’d love to see uWall include an option to search for multiple artists. Currently, search items are AND by default, but I’d love an OR option.

music on youtube

More YouTube

Obviously you love YouTube and love watching awesome stuff for free online, so here’s a few more articles we think you’ll like:

So how much do you love uWall?

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Hot Tech Deals [Jan 13th]

Posted: 13 Jan 2011 12:15 PM PST

If you’re in the market for a new computer, laptop, mobile phone, games and other accessories; don’t waste your time searching online. We’ve taken the liberty of locating the best tech deals and unifying them into a single post for your convenience.

For more fresh hot deals, visit our Hot Tech Deals page, which is constantly updated.

  1. Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 1TB Internal SATA Hard Drive $54.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKJJG22 (exp 1/19)
  2. Samsung P2770HD 27in Hybrid LCD HDTV & Monitor (HD Tuner)$299.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKJJG52 (Exp 1/19)
  3. New Dell Off Lease Coupon Codes: $75 off Any Dell D620 Laptop; 25% off Dell Refurb Desktops & to 25% off Laptops
  4. Seagate Expansion 1TB Portable External Hard Drive $89.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKJJG56 (Exp 1/19)
  5. Lenovo IdeaCentre Q150 Intel Atom D510 Dual-Core Nettop (NVIDIA ION/Win7) + Multimedia Remote $309.99 via code EMCKJJG76 (exp 1/19)
  6. TODAY ONLY Toshiba 400GB Portable External Hard Drive, Large Laptop Sleeve, Optical Mouse 3000 $69.99
  7. Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11-U Intel D510 Newest NVIDIA ION Barebone Nettop Desktop $179.99AR Free Shipping
  8. Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB Internal SATA Hard Drive $69.99AR Free Shipping via code EMCKJJG27 (exp 1/19)

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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NPR’s Web App – Perfect For Reading & Listening To News

Posted: 13 Jan 2011 11:31 AM PST

npr radio station onlineBrowse the latest news in an attractive and usable format, then read it or listen to it. NPR’s web app is similar to offerings from the New York Times and USA Today, but with an audio difference. Browse the headlines, your favorite shows or even listen to a live stream from your local NPR affiliate. Simply put: if you love NPR you’ll love this app. It’s the content you know and love presented in a new format, one that gives you the ability to create a playlist of stories, segments and music or to simply listen to your local NPR radio station online.

NPR, or National Public Radio, is little known outside the United States. International readers should probably think of it as America’s BBC radio, though with much less international ambition. Having said that, NPR’s programing is hard to match in terms of quality and diversity of topics, so it’s worth checking out regardless of where you live.


Open NPR’s web app and you’ll be presented with a choice of stories to read or listen to:

As you can see, the interface is divided into three main categories: News, Arts & Life and Music. You can use the arrow keys or your mouse to browse the stories, clicking the stories with your mouse or the enter key to read them.

There’s more, however. You can listen to any story immediately by clicking the audio icon beside them, or queue them in a playlist by clicking the “playlist” button. This makes you a radio programmer of sorts, selecting the stories you want to hear in the order you want to hear them.

npr news

For a more general overview, clicking the “Hourly News” button is a great way to immediately hear the latest happenings in Washington and around the world. You can also browse the stories by category. For example, you can see all of the latest science news by pulling up this category in the “Topics” menu:

npr news

While an emphasis is obviously given to News, the other categories should not be overlooked. Under music, for example, you’ll occasionally find full albums to listen to, pre-release. This is a great way to discover new music.

Shows & Streams

There’s more to find here than the headlines. Clicking the Programs button allows you to find the latest from your favorite NPR shows, including fun ones like the ever-amusing Car Talk and comedic quiz show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me:

This is a perfect way to add more lighthearted fare to your news listening.

Want to stop thinking about what to listen to? Tune into your local NPR affiliate and leave it to the professionals. Click the “Stations” button to browse for your local station, or let GeoIP find it for you (provided your browser offers this feature, of course).


When Chrome launched its recent Chrome Web Store many wondered what made these “apps” anything more than bookmarks. This criticism is valid, as this NPR app and most any other web app can be used without Chrome.

But that’s not the point. Web developers, and major media players such as NPR, are building websites that function as full-blown applications. Best of all: you can use them in any browser. This is a welcome, open alternative to the walled-garden approach of the iPhone/iPad/Android. I suspect that was the point of the project.

Whatever the case may be, I’m thrilled to have access to NPR’s excellent web app on every platform, and plan on using it quite a bit while laying out manuals. I think you should too, and (of course) donate to your local NPR affiliate to help keep this excellent programming free.

What about you? Share your thoughts about this app below. Feel free to recommend similar news web apps, or to rant aimlessly about NPR being liberal and this article being evidence of MakeUseOf’s terrible liberal bias (bonus points if you make a joke about my hometown).

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Instagram Shuts Down Third Party Site Followgram [News]

Posted: 13 Jan 2011 11:26 AM PST

logo.pngInstagram, the popular iPhone camera app, has been shutting down third party sites, accessing their content. According to a post on Quora, the developers behind the app have been going after third party sites that attempt to integrate their site with the Instagram experience. Up until now, Instagram has only been available to iOS users, and having surpassed 1 million users in just over two months, there is talk of extending their reach to the Android platform.

Since the only way to browse photos is directly through the Instagram app, unless shared by users on Twitter and other social networks, some of the app’s fans have taken it upon themselves to create third party sites that make it easier to follow the latest photos on Instagram.

Followgram was flooded with users registering to browse and interact with other Instagram users through the comfort of their browsers, to the point where they had to temporarily close registration to new users. It wasn’t long before the site was shut down by Instagram themselves for what has been labeled as a violation of their Terms & Conditions.


Instagram’s Terms & Conditions state,

You must not modify, adapt or hack Instagram or modify another website so as to falsely imply that it is associated with Instagram. You must not access Instagram’s private API by any other means other than the Instagram iPhone application itself. You must not crawl, scrape, or otherwise cache any content from Instagram including but not limited to user profiles and photos.

Essentially, since Instagram has not released a public API, Followgram, Instagram Shuffle (which is still live), and others, are accessing Instagram’s content and in the process violating their Terms & Conditions, as well as putting more strain on Instagram’s servers.


With an app that has been lauded for its sudden rise in popularity, Instagram earned itself some criticism for putting a temporary stop to  Followgram, and for not having provided a similar service in the first place. But there are two sides to every story – not only are the third party sites probably affecting the Instagram servers, and in turn user experience, some may also argue that the ethics behind accessing a site’s content that does not provide a public API are clear – it’s just not done.

In fact, Instagram CEO, Kevin Systrom, confirmed that the API is coming soon, replying to the thread on Quora saying

I want to say, before anything else, that we are absolutely 100% behind supporting developers that want to build on top of Instagram… soon…An API is a contract with the developer world. It says “Here’s how to interact with our system, the set of rules, guidelines, etc. that come along with it, and we promise not to change the endpoints/responses without notice.

He went on to say that Instagram had received complaints from users about Followgram displaying their content without their explicit permission.

Did Instagram do the right thing? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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Easily Synchronize Folders on Your PC with Synkron [Windows]

Posted: 13 Jan 2011 10:31 AM PST

synchronize foldersAfter receiving a portable hard drive as a gift this Christmas, I became very excited to make full use of that hard drive as a way to back up and protect all of the important family photos, videos and research documents that I wouldn’t want to lose if my laptop hard drive ever failed on me.

The problem I have with most of the synchronization applications out there is that they are either too simple or too complicated. For example, in the case of Synctoy, which Shankar covered, it is about as easy to use as you would want – but it’s a little bit limited in terms of functionality. Pure Sync, which Stefan covered, is another great tool for taking backups of entire drives or large folders, but for targeted, select file syncing or multiple sources to one target, it isn’t quite so easy. I finally came across Synkron at SourceForge and realized that it’s exactly what I was looking for.

Synchronize Individual Folders

When it comes to synchronizing folders individually from your source PC to the external hard drive, it really doesn’t get much easier than with Synkron. The main screen includes everything you’ll need in one area. Whether you want to sync up folders individually or from multiple source folders, or if you want to schedule when and how often your important files are backed up, this is the one screen where it all happens.

synchronize folders

In my case, there were three categories of files I wanted to make sure I had backed up on my new external hard drive, important pictures of my family and kids, important home videos and then all of my important research documents. I created those three “synced” folders in the “My Documents” directory and moved all important files to those directories. Moving forward, those are where anything important is going to go.

sync external hard drive

Setting up the sync is as simple as renaming the tab (in my case one tab for each individual folder sync), lining up the two folders and then clicking on the Sync button.

sync external hard drive

If you want to know what will happen once you do sync, then first click on the “Analyse” button. The software will show you which folders will get synced, how many files need to sync and if any of the subfolders don’t exist on the target hard drive. Don’t worry if that’s the case, the software will automatically create any required subfolders to match the original directory structure.

sync external hard drive

At the bottom left, you’ll see an “advanced” dropdown button where you’ll find some additional nice features like having the software not bother syncing any empty folders or avoiding all subdirectories entirely.

synchronize folders

Another very cool (and very easy) feature of Synkron is the ability to do a “MultiSync.” In this mode, you can select a list of original folders or files and one single destination folder. This allows you to sync distributed directories from all over your computer to one core folder on the external hard drive.

synchronize folders

Finally, running the sync will display all files in the pane below as they get synced up. If there aren’t many files, this will zip through pretty quick. If you have a lot of large files you’ll see every transfer take place as it’s updating those new or updated files.

Once you’ve run the sync once, you can see the date of the last sync any time you go back to that tab. The next sync will obviously take much less time since only new or updated files need to be copied over. As you can see here, you can create new tabs for each sync setup that you want to create. Make them descriptive so you can easily remember why you created it.

synchronize folders

As with any good sync software, Synkron gives you the ability to configure a whole list of sync schedules. You can configure a sync to run at a pre-set date and time, or you can set it up on a recurring schedule, such as a weekly refresh of a certain folder or folders. Different configured syncs or multisyncs can have different schedules, it’s up to you!

You also have a blacklist available for those items in your selected folders that you actually don’t want to sync. Many people do this to avoid wasting space on the external drive for large files, like videos, that they really don’t care to back up or can’t justify using up backup hard drive space for them.

synchronize folders

Not only can you blacklist specific files, but with Synkron you can use “filters” which let you blacklist the syncing of entire file types if you want.

I took a long time searching for the right sync tool to use with my new external hard drive and I have to say Synkron more than fills the bill. The combination of being free, open source, and filled with more features than many commercial backup tools makes it at the top of the list in my book.

Have you ever tried Synkron? What do you think of the tool?  Do you know any other, similar open source tools that perform as well or better? Share your insight in the comment section below.



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Learn The Ruby Programming Language While Having Fun With Hackety Hack

Posted: 13 Jan 2011 09:31 AM PST

ruby languageIf you have been wanting to learn Ruby, whether you are starting with zero programming experience or have a few programming languages under your belt, Hackety Hack is an easy and fun way to get your feet wet. Hackety Hack includes a built in compiler and build environment for the Ruby language, running alongside a tutorial system which will walk you through step-by-step.

Similar to Alice, which we have covered before, it is meant as a beginners tutorial to programming; however the main difference is that Alice is a GUI programming toolkit while Hackety Hack is a text-based “real” programming environment.

To begin, download Hackety Hack for your operating system. Versions are available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Even though their website says that it is for 64-bit only the download worked fine on my Windows 32-bit machine so perhaps that is meant for the Mac OS X version only.

ruby programming language

Click “Ready” to begin the program.

Learning Programming Basics

Hackety Hack begins with a menu of Lessons. Begin by learning how the Hackety Hack system is set up. It will show you what each button on the left side means and what happens when you click them.

ruby programming language

The rest of the tutorials are geared towards beginner programmers but if you are new to the Ruby language they will also be helpful. They are witty and fun which helps while you are learning a programming language; if you have ever read a boring tutorial before you will know what I mean.

How To Program In Ruby

The first program you will write will be a “Hello World” program which is standard in computer programming language circles. Don’t try to copy and paste the program – it won’t let you and you learn the language much better when you type it out.

ruby programming language

From there, you get progressively difficult levels of programming from the tutorials. After you have the basics of programming including algorithms, loops, variables and so forth down; you will move on to a graphical programming toolkit included with Hackety Hack named Shoes.

The last tutorial on Hackety Hack is a basic Shoes program. Learning how to manage input boxes and the results on a graphical interface is an important step in writing a “real world” program that you can interact with. The tutorial will run you through a sample input text and output.

ruby language

I’ve Done The Tutorials, What Next?

If you’ve finished the tutorials the fun doesn’t stop there. Hackety Hack has integration with its website allowing you to upload your own programs and view other programs folks have uploaded. These give you a better idea as to what is possible with the programming language Ruby, and as with most programming languages you are only limited to your imagination. Once you are done with the Hackety Hack tutorials, you may want to check out these other resources for learning Ruby:

Once you have outgrown Hackety Hack, download Ruby for your operating system and continue on your programming journey.


Hackety Hack is a great introduction to the Ruby language for programmers and non-programmers alike. I would say it is meant for anyone who has basic algebraic math skills, perhaps as young as 10 years old. But don’t let that turn you away if you are older – it is written in such a way that for even experienced programmers it is not insulting and actually it is good to go over the basics again.

I did run into a few program crashes and the lack of the ability to paste in any text, which hindered the import of some larger programs from their website. I’m not sure if this is on purpose or a bug but some paste functionality would be helpful for larger programs.

If you have been wanting to learn a programming language there is no better time than now to get started. Hackety Hack is a perfect way to get started learning Ruby. If you begin to spend a lot of time writing programs just don’t blame me!

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The Non-Geek’s Guide To Safely Uninstall Ubuntu From A Dual-Booting Machine

Posted: 13 Jan 2011 08:31 AM PST

uninstall ubuntuHave you ever tried Ubuntu? I believe most of us have, as Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux distros out there. Canonical – the creator of Ubuntu – has successfully simplified the installation process of its product so much that even the most non-geeky computer users can easily try it and then install it on their computer.

Unfortunately, even though the latest version of Ubuntu is so much easier to use compared to earlier versions, most non-geeky computer users still find it a little bit intimidating. Many common daily computer tasks like downloading and installing applications often require users to deal with command lines. Maybe that’s why many Windows users that I know feel uncomfortable using Ubuntu and have decided to ditch it.

Uninstall Ubuntu?

The problem is, uninstalling Ubuntu is not as simple as installing it. Those who install Ubuntu from within a Windows environment using the WUBI installer are very lucky, because they can then easily uninstall it using the WUBI uninstaller – also from the Windows environment. The uninstaller is usually located inside the Ubuntu folder in drive C (the main hard drive).

uninstall ubuntu

But those who install Ubuntu alongside Windows (in a separate partition) are not that lucky. Making mistakes during the uninstallation process could render the whole system useless, and reviving the system from the dead is even more difficult. I’ve searched the web to find the easiest and safest way to uninstall Ubuntu under these circumstances, but everything that I found involves a heavy dose of command lines.

But at least I got something out of my search. I began to understand that there are at least two main obstacles that we have to overcome to be able to safely remove Ubuntu. The first is finding the location of the installation before we can remove it.

The second obstacle is restoring the boot loader so that the computer will boot directly into Windows after we remove Ubuntu.

As Easy As BCD

Let’s start from the second problem as I think this is the most important one. During the installation, Ubuntu will replace your computer’s bootloader with Linux’s GRUB. But when you delete Ubuntu, the boot reference is not restored to the original. This will cause your system to be unable to boot.

To prevent this problem from happening, we will use the help of a free utility called EasyBCD from NeoSmart Technologies. This tool will help users modify and manage their computer’s bootloader. We will use EasyBCD to overwrite GRUB so the computer will boot directly to Windows again.

  • Open EasyBCD and click the “Add New Entry” button in the sidebar. Select the Windows tab under the “Operating Systems” tab, choose your Windows version and the drive where it’s installed, then click “Add Entry“.

uninstalling ubuntu

  • Then go to “Bootloader Setup“, choose the partition that you want to boot from and click “Install BCD“. Continue by choosing your version of Windows under “MBR Configuration Options” and click “Write MBR“.

uninstalling ubuntu

  • Try to boot your system just to make sure that it’s going directly to Windows without any interference from GRUB. If everything is OK, let’s continue to the next step.

Playing With The Partition

The second tool that we are going to use is EASEUS Partition Master. We will use the tool to remove the Ubuntu installation. If you install Ubuntu alongside Windows, Ubuntu will create its own partition in your hard drive and install itself there. To remove Ubuntu, all we have to do is to delete its partition. Then we can reclaim the free space back.

  • Open the app and you will see all the available partitions. Your Windows partition should be labeled FAT or NTFS, and Ubuntu’s partition is described as “(Other)“. Deleting the partition is as simple as selecting it and clicking the “Delete” button.

uninstalling ubuntu

  • Click “OK” to confirm the deletion and continue to delete other partitions that you don’t need. Be careful not to delete your Windows partition (or your data storage)!

how to uninstall ubuntu from linux dual boot

  • All the deleted partitions will be labeled “Unallocated“. To claim the free space, slide the edge of your main partition to replace the unallocated space.

how to uninstall ubuntu from linux dual boot

  • Click the “Apply” button and restart your system to apply all the changes that you’ve made.

how to uninstall ubuntu from linux dual boot

  • The process will take place during the booting. After it’s finished, your system will boot to Windows.

uninstall ubuntu

Congratulations! You’ve just safely removed your Ubuntu installation without touching a single command line.

Please note that if you have important data inside your Ubuntu installation, you should back up your data first before removing everything.

Have you ever tried to remove your Ubuntu installation? Do you know other easy methods to do it? Please share using the comments below.

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Understanding The Common WiFi Standards [Technology Explained]

Posted: 13 Jan 2011 07:31 AM PST

wifi standardsWiFi is a catch-all term. In a sense, it is very precise as it explains a specific method used to connect to the Internet. Upon closer inspection however, it becomes clear that the term isn’t helpful if you’re trying to troubleshoot WiFi problems.

There are a lot of different types of WiFi standards used by routers and laptops, and to make matters worse, devices don’t typically complain when a sub-optimal WiFi connection is made because of mis-matched WiFi standards. You’ll only notice an issue when the speed and reliability of the connection isn’t as solid as you’d expected. You’ll need to investigate the problem yourself to fix it – and that means knowing a thing or two about WiFi standards.

The Cast & Crew – WiFi Standards

wifi standards

First things first – let’s take a gander at the WiFi standards that exist. These standards were created by an organization known as the WiFI Alliance, a trade association consisting of companies interested in promoting a common standard for wireless Internet connections.

IEEE 802.11 – The original! Created in 1997, this now-defunct standard supported a blazing fast maximum connection speed of megabits per second. Devices using this haven’t been made for over a decade and won’t work with today’s equipment.

IEEE 802.11a – Created in 1999, this version of WiFi works on the 5 GHz band. This was done with the hope of encountering less interference, since many devices (like most wireless phones) use the 2.4 GHz band as well. 802.11a is fairly quick too, with maximum data rates topping out at 54 megabits per second. However, the 5GHz frequency has more difficulty with objects that are in the signal’s path, so the range is often poor.

IEEE 802.11b - Also created in 1999, this standard uses the more typical 2.4 GHz band and can achieve a maximum speed of 11 megabits per second. 802.11b was the standard that kick-started WiFi’s popularity.

IEEE 802.11g – Designed in 2003, the 802.11g standard upped the maximum data rate to 54 megabits per second while retaining usage of the reliable 2.4 GHz band. This resulted in widespread adoption of the standard. Wireless g remains common even today, as it is adequately fast and routers lacking support of the new n standard are incredibly cheap.

IEEE 802.11n – The newest WiFi standard, n was actually introduced in 2009. It’s been adopted slowly, but it now common on routers and laptops. 802.11n can operate at both 2.4GHz and 5 GHz and it supports multi-channel usage. Each channel offers a maximum data rate of 150 megabits per second, which means the maximum data rate of the standard is 600 megabits per second. However, this requires hardware support, and I have yet to see a Wireless n router with more than three channels. The support must be on both ends as well, so you can’t make use of a dual or tri-channel router if your laptop only supports a single channel.

Navigating The Legacy

wifi standards comparison

Obviously, two devices that use the same WiFi standard won’t have any issues connecting to each other and achieving a respectable data rate (no problems related to the standard, at least). The issues come from attempting to connect two devices that use different standards. This is rather common – indeed, it’s probably more common today than it has ever been before.

Let’s start with 802.11 a, which was unique for its time because it uses the 5 GHz band and ONLY the 5 GHz band. Because of this, it can’t form a connection with 802.11b or 802.11g, both of which use ONLY the 2.4 GHz band. However, 802.11a and 802.11n are compatible.

Next up we have 802.11b and 802.11g, now the middle children. Both use the 2.4 GHz band and can communicate with each other as well as with 802.11n. Only 802.11a is left out of this love triangle.

Finally, we have 802.11n, the golden child. It is all things to all wireless networks and should be able to communicate with all WiFi standards, the original 1997 standard aside.

Software Problems

wifi standards

Unfortunately, while there is a lot of compatibility between the different wireless standards, this compatibility isn’t always enabled by default. If you have two WiFi devices that should be talking without issue – but you instead can’t form a connection or find the connection to be excessively unreliable or slow – the problem is likely that the devices aren’t communicating well even though they should already know how to talk.

For example, I received an 802.11n router from my ISP when they set up my service. However, I found that the router wasn’t working with my 802.11g devices. The problem was that the router’s default configuration accepted connections from 802.11n devices only. I had to change it to “legacy mode” to enable support for 802.11g as well. If you are having problems with a new router, this is the most likely culprit.

Do note that while the older and newer WiFi standards are often compatible, a connection will only be as quick as the slowest legacy device. You can connect your 802.11g laptop to a 802.11n router, but you’ll only be able to obtain 802.11g speeds.


Wireless standards can be a bit of a bear, but hey, it could be worse. After all, imagine if the wireless standards were not designed to be backwards compatible – that could result in a horde of unhappy users! If you have any tips about wireless standards, or if you have any horror stories, post them in the comments.

Also be sure to check out our post “WiFi for Dummies” if you’re having general WiFi problems.

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